Photo by Dave Location: Radio Station With me: Galah "Bandit"
Without realizing it, Dave and I created rules in our household for our birds. Sometimes our rules change depending on circumstances and most of the rules are about how we do things rather than directly affecting the birds (from what they know!) but they’re still rules none the less and I thought I’d share them to give you ideas on rules you might want to implement in your own household, or to give you all a place to share the rules you currently have and how they’re working out for you and your parrots. It’s good to have rules, but the important part of rules is sticking to them. Once you give a little, it’s no longer a rule and a parrot won’t understand why he can sometimes get away with something, and other times not and it can create problems. So once you make your rules, stick to them and make sure everyone is aware of them and in agreement with them in your home. One person breaking the rules breaks it for everyone.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Nampa, ID Preciously pictured: Galah "Bandit"
Womach Parrot Rule: Parrots may only go to your shoulder by invitation-only. This means unless you put the bird on your shoulder, it is not allowed to just walk up there whenever it wants. The only exceptions to this rule are when we are freeflying outdoors. We’d rather a bird land on our shoulder than miss the landing altogether. And this rule only stays in place if the bird is willing to come off the shoulder the very first time we ask. If the bird refuses then shoulder time is off limits completely. It’s all about being on the same page with this one because once one bird does it to one person in the house, that’s it for all. So communication on rules is key.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Nampa, ID Pictured in all his cuteness: Galah "Bandit"
Womach Parrot Rule: Parrots on the floor... not allowed unless it’s playtime. Letting your parrot on the floor should be determined by how your parrot acts when he is on the floor. Some species, like rose breasted cockatoos, naturally go to the floor to forage in the wild so naturally they will want to do it in your home. But if, like most cockatoos do, they learn to attack feet or become overly aggressive and you can’t get them to calm down or come to you, then you don’t want to be promoting that kind of behavior. When I worked with a 35 year old male blue fronted amazon and once let him on the floor he became super aggressive and hormonal. He’d find objects to rub on and he would have no problem chasing people around and flying lowly after them. Because of how he is on the ground, I had a rule that he was never allowed down there and we stuck to that. With our macaws, they know the only time they go on the ground is to play and do what we call “bird pile” like a birdie dog pile which they love to do. They do this on the rug in our den and once play time is over, off the floor they go. This type of rule just keeps everyone happier and safer.
Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Some arena somewhere in the world Shown: Galah "Bandit"
You may also have rules about food or treats, who feeds and who trains and when. Dave and I make sure our rule of holding feet is always in place and the only time we don’t do it every time is if the birds will let us do it when we want to, then we let them not do it every once in a while as well and another exception is freeflying... when birds land and you have more than 2 it’s impossible so some don’t get their feet held. But if they are meeting strangers we always try to hold feet. There’s a lot of rules we have without thinking about it (including the 60-40 rule). We just implemented them automatically according to our lifestyle. It makes living with parrots much easier to have the boundaries set and stuck with.
Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.